Six ways to secure a Southwest Companion Pass without flying

Companion Pass from Home 2If you want to be free to fly around the country (and slightly beyond), with a friend, the best deal around is the Southwest Companion Pass.  The deal is simple: earn 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar year and you’ll get a Companion Pass valid for the rest of that year and all of the next year.  While the Companion Pass is valid, it can be used an unlimited number of times.  Simply book a flight for yourself, with cash or points, and then at any time before the flight you can add your companion for free (unfortunately, TSA fees apply so your companion is really only almost free).

You can earn points, of course, by flying Southwest on paid tickets.  Southwest’s low price fares, called “Wanna Get Away” fares, earn 6 points per dollar.  So, anyone can earn a Companion Pass “simply” by flying a bit over $18,000 worth of Wanna Get Away flights.  Or, you can spend half that much on expensive Business Select fares.  Either way, it’s a lot of money and a lot of flying.

Luckily, there are cheaper and easier ways to earn the pass…

Credit card bonuses

Chase frequently offers 50,000 bonus points for signing up for their Southwest cards.  There are three versions of the card: Premier, Premier Business, and Plus.  The Plus card costs $69 per year.  The Premier cards cost $99.  The 50,000 point bonuses (found here, when available) currently require $2K spend in three months.  An easy way to get 110,000 points in a hurry is to sign up for two of these cards and spend a combined $10,000 across the two cards.  Ideally, you would time the sign-ups and spend so that the points would be earned as early in a calendar year as possible.  That way, you’ll have the Companion Pass for nearly two years.

Credit card bonus total cost: ~$368

Assuming you sign up for one Premier card and one Plus card, you’ll pay a total of $168 in first year annual fees.  Next, let’s look at how much you would have earned had you put the $10K spend on a 2% cash back card: $200.  We’ll call that the opportunity cost of putting spend on the Southwest cards rather than the 2% cash back card.  Therefore, the total cost (annual fees plus opportunity cost) comes to $368.  That’s an incredible bargain for 110,000 points plus a Companion Pass!

Credit card spend

If you’re a big spender, then another way to get the Companion Pass is to simply charge $110,000 worth of expenses on a Southwest credit card.  Done.

Credit card spend total cost: ~$2,200

If you were to put $110,000 in spend on a 2% cash back card, you would earn $2,200 cash back.  So, the opportunity cost of this approach is $2,200.

Marriott Travel Package

UPDATE: This option will no longer work after March 31st 2017. Please see: Southwest kills best option for earning Companion Pass and Hotel Transfers Will Count Towards the Southwest Companion Pass through March 31!

Technically, any transfer of hotel points to Southwest points will work towards the Companion Pass, but in many cases the transfer ratios of hotel points to Southwest points isn’t very good.  One exception is with Marriott Travel Packages.  Those with a big stash of Marriott points can redeem them for 5 or 7 night travel packages which offer the combination of a hotel stay plus miles in whichever airline loyalty program you choose.  5 night packages aren’t advertised and are not always easy to get, but they represent the best value when your main goal is to get Southwest points.

In exchange for 235,000 Marriott points, its possible to get a travel package consisting of 5 nights at a category 1-5 property plus 120,000 Southwest points.  That’s more than enough for the Companion Pass!  You can read about 5 Night Travel packages here:

To get the required 235,000 Marriott points you can sign up for three credit cards (the following offers are available at the time of this writing, but may not be available long term):

  • Marriott Rewards Premier: 87,500 points after adding an authorized user and spending $3,000 in 3 months.  $85 annual fee.
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Business: 70,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months.  $99 annual fee is waived the first year.
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Business: Same offer as above. A spouse or significant other may apply for this one and you can use both sets of points at the time of redeeming for a travel package. Or, you may be able to get this card a second time if you have a second business (with a different tax ID).

After meeting the combined $9,000 in spend on the three cards listed above, you will have a total of over 236,000 Marriott points.

Marriott Travel Package total cost: $265

Only the personal Rewards Premier card has a first year annual fee: $85.  The opportunity cost of $9,000 in spend on these cards vs. a 2% cash back card comes to $180.

Choice Hotel points

UPDATE: This option will no longer work after March 31st 2017. Please see: Southwest kills best option for earning Companion Pass and Hotel Transfers Will Count Towards the Southwest Companion Pass through March 31!

Choice Privileges points can be redeemed for Southwest points.  Specifically, 6,000 Choice points can be converted to 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  If you convert 366,000 Choice points, you’ll end up with 109,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards points – just 200 points shy of a Companion Pass.

Loyalty Traveler taught us that its possible to buy Choice points for .75 cents each (3/4 of a penny each).  The trick is to book and then cancel Points Plus Cash stays.  You do need at least 8,000 Choice points to begin with, but you could always start by buying those points for 1.1 cents each and then going from there.

Choice Hotel points total cost: $2,773

If you start from scratch buying all of the needed points, your total cost would be:

  • 8000 points at 1.1 cents each = $88
  • 358,000 points at .75 cents each = $2,685
  • Total cost: $2773

Ouch.  That’s a lot of money and a lot of work.  There’s another advanced approach that involves starting with Amtrak cards and then transferring points to Choice, but that’s outside of the scope of this post.  You can figure out the details yourself by starting here: Manufacturing Choice. Is it worth it?  Hint: it’s probably not worth it.

A cheaper option is to buy points once a year through the Daily Getaways offers that come once a year (see my 2015 analysis here).  In 2015, Choice points were available for as little as .4 cents each.  Unfortunately, these packages tend to sell out within seconds so it is not a good idea to rely on being able to buy these.

1-800-Flowers

1-800-Flowers lets you earn 1,000 Companion Pass qualifying Southwest points per order with promo code RR22.  To qualify, orders must be $29.99 or more and only one promo code can be used per order.  The trick, then, is to place 110 separate $30 orders to get 110,000 points and the Companion Pass.  First, though, you’ll need to sign up for the Celebration Passport program (for $29.99) in order to get free shipping and handling on all of these orders.

1-800-Flowers total cost: $1665 to $3,300+

At worst, you would pay $30 x 110 = $3,300 plus ~$30 for Celebration Passport = $3,330.  If your deliveries include sales tax (not all states collect sales tax for flower deliveries) your total will be even more.  Often, though, it’s possible to cut your costs in half or better.  For full (and complex) details, please see: 1800Flowers Extreme Stacking promo codes, portals, gift cards, and more.

Online Shopping

If you do a lot of online shopping, you can earn points that qualify for the Companion Pass by shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal.  The portal offers different point bonuses for different stores.  It’s often possible to earn 5 or more points per dollar for shopping at popular merchants.

Online shopping total cost: $1,100?

It’s hard to estimate the cost of this approach.  Using a shopping portal is free, however there is an opportunity cost of using the Southwest portal instead of, say, a cash back portal.  Portal rebate rates vary tremendously though, so it’s impossible to say exactly what that opportunity cost is.  If we assume, on average, that you earn 5 points per dollar through the Southwest portal, but could have earned 5% cash back, then we can calculate the opportunity cost as $22,000 in spend at 5% cash back = $1,100.

Mix and match

You do not have to earn all of the 110,000 points with a single method.  You could earn some points with a single credit card bonus, other points with credit card spend, more points via online shopping, etc.

Stuff that doesn’t count

Southwest states that:

Companion Pass Qualifying Points” are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, your points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and your base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.

And:

Points purchased for personal use or as a gift, transferred points, points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.

In practice, we have found that the following things do count:

  • Paid flight activity
  • Points earned from credit card spend and the signup bonus
  • Points transferred from other loyalty programs
  • Points earned from the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal (however, seasonal bonuses from the portal do not count)
  • Most (but not all) points earned from partners

The following do not count:

  • Points purchased or gifted
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Some partner bonuses.  For example, when 1800Flowers occasionally offers a promo code for 1750 points per order, those points do not qualify.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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60 Comments on "Six ways to secure a Southwest Companion Pass without flying"

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Mike
Guest

Might posts like this kill the deal? I think so.

brteacher
Guest

There have been lots of posts like this over the last six years, and the deal has not been killed. Southwest still makes money off of people who get the Companion Pass, as Chase pays them well for the miles and many with the Companion Pass book more flights.

Tyler
Guest

Most of this is a lot of effort except for getting two credit cards, which has been well known for quite some time. The number of people doing any of the other methods has to be extremely small in the scope of their program.

Grant
Guest

With the new 5/24 rule applying to co-branded Chase cards soon, this will dry up.

Thebigeasytraveler
Guest

Be very cautious with the 1 800 flowers angle.

mark o
Guest

People that do a lot of reselling could do this easy with the shopping portal.

Benjinito
Guest

Has anyone else succeeded to get the 5 night Marriott travel package?

EE
Guest

I’m curious to know this, too.

Evan
Guest

I did. I am a Gold Elite member and carry the Marriott & Ritz Carlton branded cards. It was very simple…just called in and they said “this is typically reserved for vacation club members, but I can make an exception for you.” Got the cat 1-5 (will upgrade to higher category at time of booking) with 5 nights package and 70k RR points for 185k Marriott points.

Benjinito
Guest

Thanks for the data point. How does upgrading work exactly?

Travel_Guru
Guest

What about rocketmiles.com?

Rich C
Guest

Great post as I am trying to see how I can requalify next year as our current companion passes expire the end of this year. My wife and I both went the credit card route to get the passes for our kids. We have gotten great value so far. SFO to LAS, MDW twice, MCO, LGA, CUN and coming this year AUA, LGA aigain, MCO, SJD and SNA.

dave d
Guest

Excellent post.

Tonio
Guest

Depending on how one personally values Choice & Marriott points, the conversion to RapidRewards may be a net loss (or gain, possibly, if you factor having the companion pass into how you value the miles). That’s an opportunity cost, too. It’s admittedly a hard one to quantify specifically for all readers, but it should be quantifiable by your own valuations.

Also, it’s important to account for the fact that the conversion from Marriott leaves you with not only the resulting RR miles, but 5 free night certificates. That’s essentially an opportunity *gain*. The net value of the Marriott option, even with a most ungenerous valuation of the free nights, makes the actual cost of the Companion Pass somewhere between $0 and “Yay, free money!”. And leaves the Choice conversion option looking like a sick joke.

Benjinito
Guest

Category 5 Marriott hotels are 25k points/night, with 5th night free. So the value of a 5 night certificate is 25k x 4=100k. If you get 5 nights + 120k Southwest points, it’s 235k Marriott points, so you’re essentially paying 235k-100k = 125k Marriott points for 120k Southwest points. Granted, SW points are worth a lot more than Marriott points, but I wouldn’t say that it’s $0.

Tonio
Guest

Except, as I noted above, the redemption value of the SW miles is essentially doubled by the Companion Pass, since it can be used on award flights. So in effect it’s like paying 125k Marriott points for 240k SW miles…which are indeed worth a lot more.

To my mind, that’s “Yay, free money!” territory. As long as I have a travel partner to share the flights with me, I’m getting 240k SW miles worth of travel out of my 235k Marriott points, *and* 5 Category 1-5 Marriott nights as a bonus.

Benjinito
Guest

Ah, I see what you mean. My SO and I are planning a 5 night trip to Hawaii and we were going to get 2 Marriott credit cards already, but we’ll also try for a third to see if we can get the Companion Pass as a nice bonus. Assuming that they will approve us 3 cards before the dreaded 5/24 hits co branded cards, of course.

Racerboy80 (Will)
Guest

What exactly are “seasonal bonuses” considered in the shopping portal?

Thanks in advance!

trackback

[…] few days ago I published “Six ways to secure a Southwest Companion Pass without flying.” In that post, I listed a number of ways one can earn the required 110,000 Southwest points […]

Smitty
Guest

Aren’t you overestimating the true cost of obtaining a companion pass with pure spend on a Southwest card? You are calculating it based on the fact that a 2% cash back card would net you $2,200, but you are forgetting the fact that the 110,000 Southwest points you accrued had a value of $1,650 if you value Southwest points at $0.015 per point. So the actual opportunity cost is only about $550. Same analysis works with many of the other approaches too and brings the true cost of obtaining the pass down significantly.

Lela
Guest

Another way to look at it is most all these cards offer 1% rewards on spend valued at at least $.01 each, which cuts all the “opportunity” costs in half if not more. Of course ms’ing this may have costs of it’s own, often around 1%+, though one would have those same costs if you ms on a 2% card.

I appreciate the blog post though, thanks. Marriott deal and this SW deal sound interesting.

John
Guest

I’ll just put out a confirming data point on here, I just got my SWA Companion Pass through 2 CC sign-ups since Dec 2015 and a Choice Hotel point transfer, then a 1800Flowers Valentines Day gift to put me over the 110K RR point target, all in less than 2 months. So, it can indeed work to get the CP without any BIS miles! I did! Now, I just have to get a whole bunch of PTO,(Paid Time Off), for my wife and myself!….LOL

DJ
Guest

How quickly do the miles credit towards the Companion Pass for the 1800Flowers deal? What about Choice Hotel transfer? I’m just over 5k miles away and I’m trying to figure out the fastest way to get my Companion Pass…

Devin
Guest

I have referrals available for both the premium and plus cards with a 50,000 bonus for each. Email me at devomasch@gmail.com if you want the referrals to help get you the companion pass.

Thanks,
Devin

Lisa
Guest

I hope you do not mind if I post this ( if not please delete) I just received family and friend referral for the SW Premier/Plus for 50,000 points if anyone is interested (it is currently 25,000 for sign up right now). Please send your name and e-mail address to Paradisehopper @ sbcglobal.net. Once I enter your name and e-mail address, you will receive an e-mail from Chase with a link. Thank you and have a great day!

Jon
Guest

Is it possible to sign up for the 2 personal cards and then have your spouse sign up for the business card or a personal card and link it to your southwest miles account so you could get 150,000 miles, but not get denied on the third card (since I’ve heard it is almost impossible for one person to get approved for all 3 cards)?

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[…] our flights with my Southwest points and Meg was able to fly for only the fees as I still have the companion pass for the rest of the year. The total for all our flights were 23,712 SW miles and $33.60. These […]

Marcia
Guest

Thank you so much for this information! I now have qualified for a Companion Pass, and never would have figured out this possibility by only viewing the Marriott and Southwest websites.

Kyle
Guest

I have a bunch of the southwest plus card referrals. My email is mr.kyle.hill at gmail.com

Lori
Guest

I got the premier card back in October, ( 2015) nd the premier business card in May (2016) I recently read that though I’ve achieved 100k points between both cards, those points will not be counted towards the companion pass because they weren’t received in the same year. I just received the chase sapphire card, but also found out that those points won’t count either. Now, I have to figure out how to get another 50 k points by the end of this year. With excellent credit, I’m hoping that I can be approved of the plus card. Has anyone received all three SW cards? Or does anyone know what other card I can apply for that has bonus points that I can transfer to receive points towards the SW companion pass?

Lori
Guest

Ok, I may try that. Also, Does the SW plus have a business version? I have learned a lot on this website, thank you so much!

Lori
Guest

Just a few more questions..
First, should I apply for the plus card this October so I can get another 50k this year?
Also, I need to clarify. In order to maximize getting Companion pass, do I need to spend the 2k in by the end of 2016? (Which would be within the 3 months if I get it in Oct) Or do the points have to be in my Acct by by the end of 2016 or Jan 2017 to have the companion pass for almost 2 years? Or what date do I need to make the minimum spend by? Or would I be better off just applying now, and just get the rest of this year and next? Hope this makes sense!

Marc
Guest

Do points earned through Rapid Rewards Dining program count toward the Companion Pass? Also, do bonus points earned through Chase refer-a-friend links count toward the Companion Pass?

Thanks in advance.

Marc
Guest

Thank you again. Great site!

Nicole
Guest

I called Southwest to confirm the Rapid Reward points earned with purchase of Marriot Travel Package will qualify towards Companion Pass. Southwest rep said ‘no, won’t count towards companion pass.’ help?

Mikey
Guest

So right now would be a bad time to apply, right? I would like to get the bonus points around January to make the most of the 2 calendar years, so should I wait until October/November to apply so I don’t get 100,000 points in December?

Watch them reduce the bonus promo October 1st. Ha!

Rick
Guest

you updated the article that Marriott don’t work anymore. NOT TRUE. still good until March 31st!

KeeKee
Guest

Quick question, I just signed up for the Business card and the plus card. Chase is currently running a promo for 60k point on the Business card after spending 3k in 3 months and the normal 50k on the plus with 2k spent in 3 months. So i’ll have enough for my companion pass soon.

Does the items purchased to reach the 3k and 2k on each card also turn into reward points for flights or does it just roll to the 110k companion pass?

Steve Levinger
Guest

I’m considering booking a hotel through the Southwest website (by way of booking.com) and some hotels show a significantly higher # of points by being a “Rapid Rewards points plus property”. Do these “points plus” points qualify towards the required 110,000 for a Companion Pass?

Garrett
Guest

Will referral points Count towards a companion pass?

trackback

[…] The smaller airlines abandoned award charts long ago. Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America all use some modified form of a fixed-redemption system, where the value of points fluctuates slightly but never outside a fairly small range. None of those points are worth even 2 cents each, which means you shouldn’t bother with any of their credit cards except for getting the signup bonuses, since you can do better with a 2% cashback card. The only time you should be collecting Southwest, JetBlue, or Virgin America miles is when you’re actually flying those airlines (or maybe trying to grab a Southwest companion pass). […]